City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Static Review

By Lindsay Corr - Posted on 29 February 2008

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Suspect Culture/Graeae Theatre Company
Dan Reballato (Writer), Garham Eatough and Jenny Sealey (Directors), Ian Scott (Design), Kenny MacLeod (Sound)
Steven Webb (Chris), Jeni Draper (Julia), Tom Thomasson (Martin), Pauline Lockhart (Sarah)
Running time: 

"If only" and "I wish" are phrases that are uttered regularly, but it's only when they are used as a response to the shock of death that they are actually used with weight and consideration.

At times like this there is always the evocative search for reason, escape and finally a sense of understanding that even though a person dies and is no longer living, those left behind still have an innate need to communicate with them by whatever means necessary to make the process easier. The necessary means in Dan Rebellato’s script is music and its ability to throttle through you and eject every emotion in the course of only a few select songs.

This co-production between Suspect Culture and leading disability company Graeae, focuses on recently widowed Sarah (Pauline Lockhart), who discovers a compilation tape left behind by her husband Chris (Steven Webb). Convinced the tape contains a message, Sarah turns to her husband’s friend and music uber-geek, Martin (Tom Thomasson), to discover the meaning while trying to understand Chris’ sister Julia (Jeni Draper) who finds her faith is faltering.

Directors Graham Eatough and Jenny Sealey beautifully create a musical backdrop around losing a loved one in a modern, touching discussion of music as not only life and communication but everything. Along with the clicking, snapping and hiss of an old cassette player which creates a feeling of nostalgia and endearment, Ian Scott’s simple stage design is reminiscent of a huge wooden speaker, giving the impression that the characters are the pulsating wires through which the songs are delivered.

Rather than focusing on despair and heartbreak the play gives us fractions of everyday action, often delivered with hearty black humour, and centres on the power of music in relation to every aspect of life; music, like life, is a puzzle to which we cannot predict what direction the next chord will take us. Graeae’s signing perfectly unites with Suspect Culture’s usual physicality creating a whole new idiom of performance, the two plays synchronise together to overlap and inform each other yet retain an experience that will differ for both sets of audience members; hearing and non-hearing.

The quartet cast give persuasive performances portraying both humour and grief at a vastly shifting pace that is both open and honest and Rebellato’s subject-matter goes beyond music to the lyrics, which has clearly been given a lot of man hours in the choices of snippets played throughout. It explores how some people have the words and emotions and some can’t open up, preferring to put a brave face on everything and privately mourn, shown beautifully in Draper’s controlled portrayal of a woman who takes it out on God.

Static investigates astutely the area where prayer fails us and that need to find an answer where there can be no proof; just like those who believe in God and accept he is there in the ether, so too will mourners looking and listening for that unbreakable connection.

The religious undertones are further exacerbated with the quasi-religious euphoria we feel for music and how we personalise composition to seek approval and argue over what’s best. Finishing with Rufus Wainwright’s epic Agnus Dei this piece examines modern theatricality by exploring a new structure and probing ideas from outside the box without losing anything in delivery or message. It reminds you that sometimes it is the simplest things that you can do for another person, like giving a tape of songs that can say everything you wish you could, that yield the best results.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Sat 1 Mar then touring to Macrobert Stirling (Mar 5), Eden Court Inverness (Mar 7-8), Northern Stage Newcastle (Mar 11-12), Contact Theatre Manchester (Mar 14-15), The Drum Plymouth (Mar 26-29), Royal Opera House Belfast (Apr 9-12), Birmingham Rep (Apr 16-19) and Soho Theatre London (Apr 22-May 3)

©Lindsay Corr February 2008